Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review: Neverwhere

Neverwhere
by Neil Gaiman

Loved it loved it loved it. See my review at the Dream King Challenge blog here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Review: Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl
by Eoin Colfer

Synopsis from bn.com:

Artemis Fowl is a one of the greatest criminal minds the world has ever seen. He is heir to the Fowl family empire—a centuries old clan of international underworld figures and con artists. He is arguably the most cunning Fowl of all. He is also twelve years old.

Artemis' interest in mythology and an obsession with the Internet leads him to discover proof of the existence of "The People"- otherwise known as fairies, sprites, leprechauns and trolls. He learns every fairy has a magical Book. If he can find the Book, it will lead him to "The People's" vast treasure of gold.

With his brutish sidekick, Butler, he sets his plans in motion. Artemis tricks a drunken old fairy woman into loaning him her Book, a tiny golden volume, for thirty minutes. He scans it with a digital camera and emails it to his Mac G6 computer. Back in his mansion in Ireland, he is the first human to decode the secrets of the fairies.

Artemis needs a leprechaun to help him with this plan. He and Butler hunt down Holly Short, a tough, female LEPrecon, part of a gung-ho Fairy commando unit, who is on a reconnaissance mission. He kidnaps her, and a major battle begins. It's satyr against gnome, man against elf, and for the first time in his life, Artemis must decide what he values most.

My thoughts:

Although I enjoyed this book, I can't say that it is one of my favorites. I thought the sections of the book based on the fairies were more interesting than those detailing Artemis's schemes, which I don't think is a good thing considering the book is named for him. It did, however, pick up for me once Artemis had actually captured Holly and the real action started. I have the next three in the series, and I will most likely read them. I am interested in seeing how the fairy world develops and if Artemis's character becomes more interesting.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Challenges: 100+, Read and Review; A to Z

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

For more Wordless Wednesday pictures, click here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Mondays are hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page. See other mailboxes here.

I received Shakespeare's Christmas, Shakespeare's Counselor, and Specials through paperbackswap.com.

I received The Lennon Prophecy from Bostick Communications.

I received Beat the Reaper from LT Early Reviewers.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Salon (1/18/2009)

I haven't done a lot of blogging this week, but I have done a decent amount of reading. Last Sunday, I finished Neverwhere and this week I have finished two graphic novels, Ghost World and A Contract With God, an audiobook, Coraline, and two books, The Misadventures of Oliver Booth and Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year. I haven't reviewed any of these yet, basically because I'm lazy, but I've liked everything I've read. In particular, Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year, which, like, totally cracked me up.

I'm still working on Inkspell, which I am loving, and The Omnivore's Dilemma, which I am enjoying despite how long it is taking me to finish it. I'm also listening to The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: The Pox Party in my car and to The Giver on my Mozaic. I also started Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl and I want to start In Defense of Food and Fables Vol. 11.

I've been reading some short stories as well, a project I've taken on to expand the types of things I read. I've been thinking about making Saturday a "International Short Story" day on my blog, just something simple where I'd talk about one or two short stories. Then participate with Teddy on Monday with other any short stories I read.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Review: Speak

Speak
by Laurie Halse Anderson

Synopsis:

Melinda suffers a traumatic event at the end of the summer. At the start of high school she must deal with not only her suffering but also the ire of her schoolmates and best friends.

My thoughts:

This book was really powerful. It realistically covers a huge range of teenage emotion without being either sentimental or judgmental. Most importantly it shows the consequences of not getting help after a traumatic experience. Melinda is unable to reach out to her best friend, her parents, her teachers, her guidance counselor. There was no one for her to confess to. The reader has to watch Melinda stumble around clumsily and it is a painful show.

The writing was interesting and creative as well. Some of the scenes are broken down like a play's script. And it always made me laugh (somewhat inappropriately) when Melinda would be having a conversation with an adult in which her part always looked like this:

Me:

I often had one-sided conversations like this with my parents, so these scenes rang true. Melinda often had no response to those trying to get through to her. It is only her eventual realization that she has to speak up for herself that she begins to make any kind of progress.

Apparently, this book previously faced some censorship issues. I'm not exactly sure what happened with that, but it doesn't make any sense to censor this book. If this book does anything it teaches an important lesson to young girls: Speak up! And also to young boys who may not understand how girls suffer from sexual provocation.

Recommendation: 5 out 5. Definitely a worthy read, and must read for teens.

Challenges: 100+; Read and Review; A to Z; Young Adult

Booking Through Thursday

See other answers at the dedicated blog.


If you’re anything like me, there are songs that you love because of their lyrics; writers you admire because their songs have depth, meaning, or just a sheer playfulness that has nothing to do with the tunes.

So, today’s question?

  • What songs … either specific songs, or songs in general by a specific group or writer … have words that you love?
  • Why?
  • And … do the tunes that go with the fantastic lyrics live up to them?
Fiona Apple has always written great lyrics, I've loved every song on all of her three albums. Not to mention her amazing voice. I also love No Doubt and Gwen's solo albums. This is obviously much more pop cultureish, but somehow Gwen always seems to write lyrics with themes I can relate to, even if they seem somewhat silly.

Another is Amy Winehouse, even though she's totally cracked out and crazy, she can write a damn good love song. Wake Up Alone and Take the Box---so amazing, so sad. If you haven't heard these, you should give it a listen.

Adele's Melt My Heart to Stone is another good one that I can relate too. As you can see, I love female voices.

These four girls dominate my iPod. In fact, I think I'm going to listen to them now. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

See other Teaser Tuesdays at Should Be Reading.

And moreover, didn't his words now seem to him better in a minstrel's mouth than pressed between the pages of a book, to lie there gathering dust? He liked to think of them as free, owing no one allegiance.

--page 132, Inkspell, Cornelia Funke

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Mondays are hosted by Marcia at the Printed Page. See other mailboxes here.

These were in the mail when I came home today. I bought them from Barnes and Noble to help me with my short story challenge.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Susanna Clarke
M is for Magic, Neil Gaiman
The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction
The Art of the Story: An International Anthology of Contemporary Short Stories

Review: Violent Cases

Violent Cases
by Neil Gaiman

I just posted the review of my first graphic novel of the year here on the Graphic Novels Challenge Blog.

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

Synopsis from bn.com:

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival.

My thoughts:

Ok. Here's the thing. This book is AMAZING. But I know that, if you read book blogs at all, you know this already. So I don't know if there is much I can say that will really add to the mix. So, just read the book. Seriously.

I've said this a thousand times before, but the best support for a good plot is character development. And Katniss is a great character. She is a product of the harsh, coal-mining section of District 12--she must support her family after her father dies and her mother checks out mentally. She has formed a strong bond with her hunting partner Gale. Their lives share many things in common. She is smart enough to make her way through the preparation of the games, but not so smart that she sees everything that is going on. She is a great mix of trust and skepticism.

I loved the world that Collins created. It reminds me a lot of the Giver--the highly controlled aspects of daily life and someone who sees through the propaganda and feels the need to break free, but doesn't know how.

This is one of those books that I just want to sit down with someone who has read it and discuss everything. So if you want to email about this, hit me up!!!!

Rating: Can I do 6 out 5? This is a must read.

Challenges: 100+; Read and Review; A to Z; YA; 1st in a Series; 999

Short Story Monday (1/12/2009)

This is my first post for the perpetual 100 Shots of Short Challenge hosted by Rob at RobAroundBooks (despite the fact I joined several months ago). I'm also posting as a part of John from The Book Mine Set's Short Story Monday. If you read short stories, or want to get into to it, you should consider participating in this event. I'm hoping that his weekly event will help motivate me to continue to explore this genre.

I've been struggling with how to post about the stories, but I think I'm just going to follow Rob's lead and make it brief. I'm going to do something separate for each story, and then probably do a full review post for any collections I actually finish.

Right now I'm working on a collection called The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter. These stories are Carter's retakes on fairy tales. Here are the three that I've read so far:

#1
The Bloody Chamber
Date read: 1/8/2009
Briefly: A feminist take on the Bluebeard story.
Thoughts: I didn't realize that this was the Bluebeard story until after I read some other people's reviews. But that didn't stop me from enjoying it. Her prose is definitely the best part of the story, because the climax seemed rather obvious and the end was very quick for all the build up. Very sexual topics.
Rating: 3 out of 5

#2
The Courtship of Mr. Lyon
Date Read: 1/9/2009
Briefly: A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, who is in this story a lion.
Thoughts: I liked this retelling because the young girl slowly evolves and then makes her own choice about her future with Beast. Which is different than the next story, where the girl is forced into the situation.
Rating: 4 out of 5

#3
The Tiger's Bride
Date Read: 1/12/2009
Briefly: Another retelling of Beauty and the Beast, this time a tiger.
Thoughts: The sexual development of Beauty is interesting in this story, but I don't like how she was forced into the situation. It was one of those moments when I feel a little slow because I didn't understand the purpose. I guess I just don't like the idea of girls being forced into sexual relationships.
Rating: 2 out of 5

Musing Mondays

See other Musing Mondays at Just One More Page.

How did you react to assigned reading when you were in school/university/college/etc? How do you think on these books now? What book were you 'forced' to read when you where in school that you've since reread and loved?

Well, I have a confession to make. I was one of those kids that tried to cheat with Cliff Notes instead of reading the assignments. I've never been good at reading the classics, I do most of my reading in books that have been recently published. I also didn't read a lot in high school. I was too busy with honors and AP classes and softball, which took up most of my free time. I read a lot more when I was younger.

Some of the books I had to read, I enjoy now, such as Wuthering Heights and The Awakening--both of which I gained an appreciation for in undergrad. Others, like The Great Gatsby or The Heart of Darkness (which I'm going to have to reread for my upcoming grad class) I've never come around to.

I've been much better about doing assigned readings in grad school, but in undergrad I had a hard time finishing books---I just never had enough time. Plus, I'm a major procrastinator and I would read other books instead.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Salon (1/11/2009)

It is official: I am already behind in my reviewing in 2009. I can read so much faster than I can write reviews. I did manage to review The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Inkheart. I'm in the middle of writing a review for The Hunger Games, but I'm having a hard time with it because it was so good, and everyone has already heard that.

I've also finished two graphic novels Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman and Cairo by Willow Wilson. And I finished Speak and Artemis Fowl. I'm currently reading Inkspell and Neverwhere, both of which are fighting for my attention because they are both awesome books.

One thing I've learned this year (already) is that keeping my challenge info updated takes a lot of time. One of the reasons I'm so behind on the blog is because I've suddenly got all this "administrative" stuff to do. Oh well, it would be a lie to say I wasn't enjoying it.

So the goal for today is to do the dishes...and try to finish either Neverwhere or Inkspell and make a big dent in the other. Also, I'd like to write a couple of reviews and be able to post something to my Graphic Novel Challenge blog....

Which reminds me, if you haven't joined, and you might be interested, check out the Graphic Novel Challenge Blog and sign up. It has been a very active challenge already. There are some great recommendations being posted all the time.

Also, thanks SO MUCH to Beth from Beth Fish Reads and Rebecca from Just One More Page for passing on the Premios Dardo award. It's my first award and it is so nice to be recognized!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Premios Dardo Award!!!

Wow! Two bloggers gave me this award! This is way exciting! It's my first award! You can tell I'm excited because I'm overusing the exclamation point!

Beth from Beth Fish Reads one of the first blogs I stumbled upon and one of my favorites and Rebecca from Just One More Page who's a newbie like me and has been graciously hosting Musing Mondays. Thanks so much. It means a lot to be recognized. I never really thought anyone but my parents would read my blog, but this community has been so welcoming. It is amazing.


This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day.

The rules to follow are

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.


2) Pass the award to 15 other blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.


Here are my picks (I'm not going to pass to 15, because at some point today, I have to do some reading!!):

Library Loot (Jan 7-13)

Eva and Alessandra are co-hosting this weekly event. I just went to the library to pick up two books on hold and came back with six graphic novels. Oops.

  • A Contract with God
  • Blue Pills
  • Epileptic
  • The Book of Ballads
  • Ghost World
  • Cairo
I can't wait to dig in. Hopefully I can write the reviews as fast as I'll be reading these. :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Review: Inkheart

Inkheart
by Cornelia Funke

Synopsis from bn.com:

One cruel night, Meggie's father, Mo, reads aloud from INKHEART, and an evil ruler named Capricorn escapes the boundaries of fiction, landing instead in their living room. Suddenly, Meggie's in the middle of the kind of adventure she thought only took place in fairy tales. Somehow she must master the magic that has conjured up this nightmare. Can she change the course of the story that has changed her life forever?

My thoughts:

I was late to the game in finding this series. I hadn't really heard about it until the last one came out. (Which, truthfully, is kind of the way I like it. That way I can read them all at once, like the book glutton that I am.) I've started several series in the Middle Grade realm lately, and I'd say that this book is on par with the rest of them. Of course, I loved that the characters love books and have piles everywhere and treat them with respect and that picking the books they travel with is more important than the clothes they bring. Just imagining Elinor's house full of bookshelves is enough to make me almost pass out from euphoria.

The plot was interesting, but it was really the characters that did it for me. I really loved Dustfinger. His character seemed the most complex to me. It was difficult to decide if he could be trusted, because he could really come in and save the day on moment and then completely sell out Meggie and Mo in the next. But regardless of his actions, he is a very sympathetic character because he's been pulled into this world he don't know or like and he can't get back home, which is all he really wants. He's got "frenemies" on all sides of him---people and characters that can't always be trusted, but aren't specifically out to harm him.

**Ok, this next part might be a bit of a spoiler, so watch out** I really liked the ending of this book. Sometimes the endings can peter out a bit, and wrap up too easily. But I loved how Fengolio and Meggie were able to pull off their plan, but it doesn't exactly end happily. Fengolio disappears and even though all the Shadow's previous kills have come back, they aren't in their book anymore---so, while its a good solution, its not a "happily ever after" perfect ending. I also liked that this book was pretty self contained. One of my biggest peeves with series books is that the books don't stand alone well. I can't speak for the next two books, but you could read this and be satisfied that this part of the story is done.

Rating: 5 out of 5. All in all, I definitely recommend this book to fans of YA or Middle Grade fantasy series. They're making it into a movie too, which is always really fun.

Challenges: 100+, Read and Review, A to Z, Countdown, 1st in a series, Cornelia Funke, 999, and Winter. (Do I overlap too much!?)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Review: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard
by J. K. Rowling

There isn't really much to say about this book that hasn't already been said. The best part, for me, was the mention of Dumbledore's brother Aberforth and his preference for bedtime stories that included Grumble the Grubby Goat (or something close to that, I don't have my book with me), as opposed to Beedle the Bard's stories. There is just something about this recurring hint at beastality that seriously cracks me up. I laughed out loud at that and even ran off to show my roommate. Obviously, there is nothing funny about goat loving for real, but Rowling gets me every time with that.

The stories themselves were short, and I wish she had made them longer, but I suppose that wouldn't be the point. Dumbledore's commentary was great, his childlike sense of humor still makes me smile (sniffle, sniffle).

I definitely recommend that Harry Potter fans read this. It is no substitute for the series nor is it an addition to it, but it is good for a few minutes of entertainment.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Challenges: 100+; Read and Review

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Dream King Challenge

YOU. MUST. JOIN. THIS. CHALLENGE.

But seriously. Jessi from Casual Dread is hosting The Dream King Challenge on a dedicated blog. Check out the blog to see the different levels and list of Neil Gaiman's books. If you've never read Neil Gaiman, sign up for the Neophyte level and read one of his books and see one of his movies (Coraline is coming out soon). It is worth it, believe me.

Here's my list, which is cross posted on the challenge blog:

  • Neverwhere (Novel)
  • Interworld (YA, written with Michael Reaves)
  • Coraline (Graphic Novel)
  • Coraline (Audiobook)
  • Coraline (Movie)
  • Stardust (YA)
  • M is for Magic (Short Stories)
  • Smoke and Mirrors (Short Stories)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2008 Reading Stats

Number of Pages: 41,700 (estimate)
Average number of pages: 326
Largest book: 1,300 pages (Bone)
Smallest book: 80 pages (The Borden Tragedy)

Year published (2000s only):
  • 2000: 2
  • 2001: 4
  • 2002: 4
  • 2003: 8
  • 2004: 11
  • 2005: 6
  • 2006: 19
  • 2007: 19
  • 2008: 11
  • 2009: 4
New Authors: 66
Rereads: 6
Fiction: 101
Nonfiction: 27

Genres:
  • Young Adult: 28
  • Middle Grade: 14
  • Graphic Novel: 26
  • Adult/other: 36
  • Long-form Journalism: 10
  • Memoir: 5
Source:
  • Library: 37
  • My books: 53
  • For school: 18
  • From friend: 4
  • Publisher: 8
  • Present: 8
Female Authors: 17 (need to read more female authors)
Male Authors: 45

Ratings:
  • 5: 30
  • 4: 68
  • 3: 29
  • 2: 1
  • 1: 0
Average rating: 4 (Looks like I'm too nice!)

Favorite Reads of 2008

I know, I'm way behind on this. Everyone's been getting their lists and stats up all week, but I've been working on compiling my stats. I hadn't been doing that during the year, but since everyone else did, it made me want to do it to. My roommate said I'm trying to keep up with the Jones. But I'm just curious!

Fiction:
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell
  • A Dirty Job
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Things Fall Apart
  • The Heretic's Daughter
  • Sarah's Key
  • The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
  • The Believers

Nonfiction:
  • Under the Banner of Heaven
  • Fast Food Nation
  • The Executioner's Song
Young Adult:
  • The Book Thief
  • I am the Messenger
  • The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party
  • The Giver (an all time favorite)
  • Magic or Madness Trilogy
  • Skin Hunger
Middle Grade
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians (Books 1-4)
  • Coraline
  • The Graveyard Book
  • Fablehaven: The Rise of the Evening Star
Graphic Novels:
  • Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume
  • Fables (Vols. 1-10)
  • The Complete Maus
  • Persepolis

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: New Year's Reading Resolutions

See other Booking Through Thursdays here.

Happy New Year, everyone!

So … any Reading Resolutions? Say, specific books you plan to read? A plan to read more ____? Anything at all?

  • I plan to read and review every book, even if the review is really just some comments.
  • I plan to read at least 130 books (including audiobooks), as I read 128 in 2008.
  • I plan to complete as many of the challenges I joined (about 9 million) as I can without making myself hate challenges.
  • I plan to comment more on others' blogs, something I haven't been very good about so far.
  • I plan to combine my reading with exercise, ie. walking and listening to an audiobook.
  • I plan to cut back on my book spending (insert tears here), ie. only buying those must-must-have books and looking to the public library, the Library of Congress, and paperbackswap for any other books.
I think that's a good enough list. I don't want to over do it!

Name me at least ONE thing you’re looking forward to reading this year!

The Hunger Games. Jasper Ffordes new book, Shades of Grey.